Compassion

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For those who have followed my blog for a while you know I have three sponsor kids from Africa: Alex from Tanzania, Amede from Togo, and Mamounata from Burkina Faso. These kids have enriched my life in more ways that I ever could have imagined when I first started sponsoring them.

A couple of weeks ago I worked at an event for Compassion International called the Compassion Experience. This experience allows participants to see how children in third-world countries live too frequently. While it’s heartbreaking, it prompts one to want to make a difference.

During the Compassion Experience, each participant is equipped with head phones and an iPhone that leads them through a realistic look into the lives of two real children. In the one I volunteered for, those children were Kiwi from the Philippines and Jey from the slums of Nairobi, Kenya. Before I began my shift, I walked through Jey’s life (you can listen to it for yourself here) so I could adequately represent it to those I would be helping with the experience. Let me tell you it was eye opening!

Jey didn’t have a father and they didn’t have food or money. He grew up on the streets begging for money and food. When he couldn’t get anything to eat or drink, he began stealing.

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At just 9 years of age, Jey was arrested and found himself in jail. His cell looked like this. Could you imagine the fear he must have felt? Jey admits to not fearing death, as that was the only way he saw that he could get out. And worse, as a mother, could you imagine knowing your child was in this place?

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The above photo is of Jey’s grandmother’s place where numerous family members shared a tiny space. There was one bed, the one shown here, for everyone to share.

 

 

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The above two photos are areas in the slum neighborhoods where children were often found begging and trying to make money for food.

When Jey got out of jail he went back to the same poverty stricken environment. His mother didn’t have any means to provide for her kids. Jey thought he would have to go back to the streets again to beg and probably die. At that point in his life is when Compassion International came in.

The two photos below are of the school in the Compassion Project that gave Jey hope.

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Jey finally had a place to go where he received food, learned music, and a new way of thinking. That’s when things started turning around for him. The first time Jey heard “I Love You” was from his sponsor. He was told he was special, and that we was going to end up to be somebody. Words that forever changed him.

Today Jey is a DJ and a youth minister. But even more importantly, today Jey is free from prison, hunger, poverty, and destruction.

Jey’s is just one of so many heart wrenching stories. As a mother, I couldn’t imagine a horror so great as watching my child starve or be put in jail as a result of trying to get food or drink.

Tonight as you tuck your children into bed for the night, or you get that phone call from one of your children needing help or just calling to say “Hi, Mom/Dad,” or you pass by your teenager’s messy room, offer up thanks for having a healthy, happy child. Be grateful that you have the means to support them. And give thanks for the freedom and government programs we all have here in our country. Freedom and government programs children in third-world countries don’t have.

At the end of life we will not be judged by how many diplomas we have received, how much money we have made, how many great things we have done.
We will be judged by “I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat, I was naked and you clothed me. I was homeless, and you took me in.
― Mother Teresa

The Bucket List

Bucket List Post

How many of you have a bucket list? The movie, The Bucket List, with Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson is one of my all-time favorites. It’s a 2007 movie in which two terminally ill men (Freeman and Nicholson) set out to accomplish a list of things they want to experience before they “kick the bucket.” I guess I took that movie to heart. Why wait until we’re dying to experience life? Each day we’re all one day closer to the end of our days. And at the risk of being cliché, not one of us is guaranteed tomorrow. That shouldn’t be a depressing or distressing thought, but rather one that inspires you to truly live.

I recently reviewed my bucket list and realized how few of them I’ve accomplished, much less remembered. I updated it, removing things that no longer held interest, adding some items that have piqued my interest over the past couple of years.

And in the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years – Abraham Lincoln

Some of them I’m especially passionate about, namely:

  • Ride on a train,
  • Travel the New England coastline,
  • Perform a random act of kindness every day for a month,
  • Get to know 10 people from different countries.

While I’m an advocate for kindness by everyone, toward everyone, I’ll admit I’m not consistent in consciously looking for ways in which to practice acts of kindness. Work keeps me busy and preoccupied, life gets in the way, the lure of the television set and electronics, and…well, practicing acts of kindness gets placed on the back burner. Until I review my bucket list and remember.

Riding on a train and traveling the New England coastline are dreams that require minimal planning to make come true and are affordable. So there really is no excuse. Except, as with random acts of kindness, life happens and they become a “someday” item on the agenda, if I remember them at all.

And getting to know 10 people from different countries? That one I’m especially passionate about. Not simply meet, but with whom to share life. And, yet…yup, you guessed it…without the reminder, the effort falls to the wayside. So making an effort to meet and get to know people outside of the those that I stumble upon as I go through each day doesn’t happen.

My dream is to prove that love can cross any boundary, physical or otherwise. Nothing can stop love except unloving people. And this past year, with so many issues demonstrating anything but love, it’s especially important. There’s so much hatred, judgement, and intolerance in the world today, that it’s frightening. I want to be part of the movement to bring back love, compassion, kindness, and acceptance. It occurred to me this past weekend that while criminals in our country are considered innocent until proven guilty, those from other countries and nationalities or different race and religion than our own are often not afforded the same benefit. Instead they’re forced to prove their innocence. Where’s the fairness and justice in that? Why have we as a nation gone so far astray by separating “us” and “them.” Why can’t it just be “we?” “All” innocent first.

It’s all about Love. Acceptance. Kindness. Compassion.

I have three sponsor kiddos through Compassion International who I treasure, all three from different countries in Africa: Burkina Faso, Tanzania, and Togo. That’s a start. And I’ll be printing my bucket list and keeping it handy to view frequently, reminding me in the midst of the chaos and busyness of life, what’s truly important.

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When we seek to discover the best in others, we somehow bring out the best in ourselves. William Arthur Ward

The Golden Rule

We’ve all heard of The Golden Rule:
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While the idea is good to shoot for, it may not be good enough.

Simply stated, we can be harder on ourselves than anyone else is. We’re often our own worst enemy, constantly reminding ourselves of where we fall short, where we fail. This, in turn, can cause us to be more intolerant of other’s shortcomings, because we expect from others what we, ourselves, cannot even do to our own standards. And yet, ironically, we treat others better than we treat ourselves.

  • Thin people sometimes see someone overweight looking back at them in the mirror.
  • We’re not smart enough or pretty enough. We don’t do enough or have enough. We’re simply not enough.
  • We say things we wish we wouldn’t have, do things we wish we could erase, and beat ourselves up when we can’t.
  • We feel we don’t deserve happiness, forgiveness, or peace, because of what we’ve done in the past.

The other day when I was driving home from work there was car in front of me going sooooo sllooowww. Not only was this person driving slowly, s/he stopped for yellow lights, then allowed not one car from an incoming street to go in front of him/her, but two. Impatient to get home, to put the work day behind me, I was having all kinds of negative conversations with myself about the driver of this vehicle.

When I was finally able to pull into the next lane, I drove up next to the car, wanting to see the driver, sure s/he was talking on a cell phone rather than pay attention to the road. To my surprise, it was an elderly woman. A slightly confused elderly woman. Thankfully, she was oblivious to my impatience.

I felt oh, so small. I would be heartbroken if that woman had been my mother and someone else was as impatient and intolerant as I had been. God taught me a lesson in judging and patience that day.

On another occasion this past week, a young man called me at work. He was confused about his legal situation and I had to repeat three times the process of what he needed to do. I found myself getting impatient, but God’s voice spoke above my impatience. A little voice in my head asked, “What if this was your son calling, needing help with a process that’s confusing to someone not in the justice system, even if he needed to hear it three times?” My heart softened and I found patience I didn’t know I had, as I had to repeat the process yet another two times, wanting to be sure he understood completely before we disconnected.

How people treat me doesn’t affect me as much as how they treat my loved ones. I want my loved ones treated with love, with respect, with patience. In fact, when I’m mistreated I get over it. But seeing my loved ones mistreated? Well, that breaks my heart in two.

God spoke to me in a way I could hear loud and clear.

The Golden Rule I now strive to live by has changed a bit. e2809cdo-unto-others-as-you-would-have-them-do-unto-your-loved-ones-e2809d.png

Women’s History Month Spotlight – Mother Teresa

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Anyone who has followed my blog for any length of time knows I’m completely in awe of Mother Teresa’s greatness. So my first “spotlight” woman for Women’s History Month isn’t a surprise.

Mother Teresa was the picture of humility, compassion, love, and service. She loved unconditionally, with no prejudice or judgement, leaving the world a much better place than when she entered it.

Mother Teresa described herself so eloquently: “By blood, I am Albanian. By citizenship, an Indian. By faith, I am a Catholic nun. As to my calling, I belong to the world. As to my heart, I belong entirely to the Heart of Jesus.”

What a beautiful example of a woman. She has been both a blessing and a lesson to countless others.

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Compassionate Living

Asking someone how they’re doing makes one look compassionate and caring. Taking the time to listen to the answer, no matter what the answer is, means one is compassionate and caring.

Today, may we all strive to live compassionately and truly care about one another.

Compassion Is The Greatest From Motivational Love Quotes

Carpe Diem

 

T.G.I.F. – Gratitude Friday

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Top of My List for the Week:

3.)  Getting a letter in the mail from Mamounata, one of my sponsor children from Burkina Faso. She has such a passion for learning, for Jesus, and is so filled with gratitude. She inspires me.

2.)  Seeing my son and granddaughter come through the front door, he with that amazing, genuine smile I have always loved so much, and she with that energy and zest for life that melts this grandma’s heart. Seeing him be such an amazing daddy is such a gift.

1.)  My youngest son stopping by to visit for the first time since he moved out,  getting to see and hear how well he’s doing, and watching him as he walked through the house remembering so many things. And that same son calling me early the next morning to let me know he re-broke his arm at work, was on his way to ER, and could I meet him there. No matter how old my children are, when they want or need me for anything, it’s such an honor to be able to be there for them.  The fact that it wasn’t broken at all, but a contusion over the old break, was a blessing in and of itself. 🙂

What are you grateful for this week? What tops your list?

“Let us be grateful to the people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.”  -Marcel Proust
Carpe diem.

 

“M” is for…

Mamounata.  And Alex and Amede.

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These three precious children have changed my life. They’ve taken me out of my own self-centeredness by sharing their lives with me.

Mamaounata is 9 years old, from Burkina Faso, and likes dolls and group games; Alex is 14, from Tanzania, and likes soccer and singing; and Amede is 8, from Togo, and likes soccer and group games.

Before I had begun sponsoring these kiddos, I had been praying for some time that God lead me to an area in which He wanted me to serve. A way to serve that would glorify and honor Him in the way that would make the biggest difference to His children.

And He led me to Compassion International, where I looked at these three angels and my heart was so deeply filled with a need to love them, that I knew it was right.

Sponsoring them has been such a gift and a blessing, receiving their letters in my mailbox turning a difficult day to one of gratitude. Hearing that they are praying for me? Wow! Reading that they bought clothes, rice and beans with the birthday money I’ve sent them? Again, Wow!  They tell me their favorite bible verses, what they’re doing in school, who their best friends are, ask me how my family is and that they pray for me, they draw me pictures, and on and on. The blessings are endless.

I have had people ask me why I choose to help children in another country when we have so much need right here in our own. To that I say “Each of us is called to serve in our own unique way.  I was called to this, and it’s not for me to say ‘No.'” As long as each of us is serving in some way, helping in some area of need, the world will be a much better place.

Being of service isn’t time taken from us, it’s life given.  Giving to those in need isn’t giving money away, it’s an investment.  For me, there is no better investment than investing in the life of a child. And I have so much life to live and so much more investing to do.

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Peace.

Women’s History Month

I could hardly believe it when I realized this is my 100th post.  Amazing!  🙂

I spent some time trying to think of some wise, witty, memorable ideas, wanting to make it a huge celebration.  But then in the back of my mind, I thought since March is Women’s History Month, why not pay tribute to women who have changed the course of history.  The women who have paved the way to where I am today.  The women who’s courage amazes and captivates the attention of other women who are trying to make it in today’s world.

I’ve decided to list my top ten, and encourage and invite you to list some of yours in the comments.  Maybe there’s a woman who has made a difference in your life that others haven’t heard of and by learning more about that person, could make a difference in someone else’s life as well.

So here’s my top ten:

10.) Marilyn Monroe – She was such a beautiful, talented woman, and yet so conflicted.  Sadly, Marilyn Monroe has proven that beauty truly is only skin deep and cannot buy happiness.

9.)   Amelia Earhart – Aviation pioneer – She has demonstrated that being a woman should never stop one from doing what one truly wants to do.  If anything, she has shown that one should try even harder, pursuing passion with gusto.

8.)   Oprah Winfrey – She has shown that no matter what we’re born with and what our past holds, it does not have to define and shape our future.  We have the power within us to do and be whatever we choose to be.  And, as with Amelia Earhart, passion and perseverance can move mountains.

7.)   Katie Davis – Katie has shown that we’re never too young to make a difference.  At 18 she moved to Uganda to work with the poor and has adopted 14 girls and made a difference to an abundance of people.  She radiates joy, love, hope, and the Spirit of Jesus.

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6.)   Anne Frank – Her statement, “Despite everything, I believe that people are really good at heart,” is astounding to me. She has shown that attitude really is 99% of what we become.

5.)   Kathryn Stockett – Wow! Talk about perseverance! After five years of trying to secure a literary agent and approximately 60 rejections, the author of the bestseller, The Help, never quit.  Thank goodness she finally caught the attention of just one, because it’s a book I would recommend to anyone and everyone.

4.)   Jane Pauley – I grew up watching her on NBC’s The Today Show, and her simple beauty and love of being a journalist fed my love of words. Recently she has spoken openly about her bipolar disorder, helping to overcome some of the stigma surrounding the illness.

3.)   Maya Angelou – A woman who has overcome childhood trauma and used it to help others overcome through words.  And the poem Phenomenal Woman? I need say no more. Simply phenomenal.

2.)   Mother Teresa – I don’t even know where to begin with explaining what this amazing Godly woman has taught me.  She was the most perfect role model of grace, humility, and demonstration of love. Her simplicity and selfless service to others knew no bounds.

1.)   The first and most influential woman in my life would be my mother.  She has taught me that hard work, faith, and dedication are the keys to success.  She has taught me that taking care of and being present for my own family is the greatest gift I can give, and that to serve and follow Christ, I need not travel to another country to do so, but it starts in my own home.  And she has taught me that laughter and joy are key to aging gracefully.

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An Opportunity to Pray

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Last Saturday I worked an event for Compassion International in a for a movie showing of Son of God. My duties were to show up an hour early to set up the display and hand out information cards to all movie goers as they entered the theater and then display child sponsorship cards as they exited. During the movie, I was able to sit and watch with the rest of them, and it was the best portrayal of the story of Jesus I believe I’ve ever seen. I would highly recommend it to anyone.

But I digress…

As I was handing out the cards before the movie, one man looked at it and asked, “What is this?” After I gave him a very brief explanation, he handed the card back and said, “I can’t even afford my own kids. Thank God for the complimentary tickets.” Initially I was taken aback, but it quickly turned to compassion for this man. Thank God, indeed. His statement demonstrated such humility. And, yes, thank God he received a complimentary ticket so he would be able to share the story of Jesus with his children.

I had an opportunity to pray for that man, and for the others as they accepted the card I handed each of them. I prayed that God would speak to each individual heart in that theater as only He knows what each needs most.

I had another man tell me the people coming in behind him were atheist. My answer? “Wonderful!” with a broad smile. “Welcome!” And another prayer sent up to a loving Father who welcomes all.

After the movie, as I was displaying child sponsorship packets, I had an opportunity to speak with others who already sponsor a child. One woman told me of her trip to Tanzania to visit her sponsored child. As she spoke of the poverty, a level she admitted she was nowhere near able to comprehend or prepare for, her eyes lit up as she told me what a life-changing experience it was.

As I drove the 45-minute drive home, I had time to consider the opportunities that were given to me that evening to pray. As if I need an opportunity at all.

And it struck me that as I was praying for God to speak to each heart in that theater, he didn’t miss mine. He spoke to me in a way He knew I would hear.

He blessed me as I reached out to bless others.

He showed me that there are so many areas to serve, and no one way is the right way. As many people as there are, there are at least as many ways to serve.

The man who admitted he couldn’t afford his own children? He served by blessing me with gratitude for what I have. He reminded me to be grateful for what I have rather than want what I don’t.

The atheist? He served by giving me a chance to love without discriminating. To accept and not judge. And to be welcoming rather than drive him away. The fact that he was coming to see the movie Son of God? Beautiful.

The woman who spoke to me of her life-changing experience in Tanzania? She served by moving forward, if only an inch, the recent plea of one of my sponsor children of when I will come visit her. My sweet Mamounata in Burkina Faso. And that inch is one inch closer to making a child’s dream come true.

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Peace.

What Do You Mean It’s Not About Me?

“You’re needlessly beating yourself up and trying too hard to find an answer that isn’t there.”

My husband.  A wise man with such wise words.

We had gone on a long, peaceful bike ride this morning, surrounded by nature’s beauty.  At one point we stopped and were sitting in a park as I was filling him in on a text message I had received that hurt a bit.  Actually, “hurt” is a bit too gentle of a word.  It stung.  And the sting persisted stubbornly, intensifying as my mind imagined all kinds of reasons why what was said was actually said at all.

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My husband’s words, few in number, quality far surpassing quantity, stopped that sting dead in its tracks.  It all started making sense. All because of a few words.

And as we once again hopped upon our bikes and began riding, it began making even more sense.

When I’m riding my bike, surrounded by birds–both those flying above me and the ducks and geese swimming in the river below the bank–little critters scampering across the trail and in the woods that borders the opposite side of the trail as the river, the green of the trees, the silence…well, I’m able to piece together, and even make sense of, pieces of my life that I had been unable to understand prior to that moment.photo-7[1]

If someone says something hurtful to me, it’s not about me.  Unless I’ve done or said something to earn that arrow, alerting me to the fact that I had acted less than acceptable, it’s not my business to get upset.

What other people do or say isn’t about me.  In fact, the world isn’t about me at all.  Now isn’t that a wake-up call?  But immensely freeing, nonetheless.

It’s not my business to criticize, condemn, nor judge anyone else’s words or actions.

What is my business is to simply treat others with love, kindness, and compassion.  To forgive.  No matter what.  Usually easier said than done, but a work in progress is better than no progress at all.

Whether they return those blessings, or accept an apology I’ve made, isn’t in my control.  I can’t force anyone else to act or speak in love, or to forgive.  God can, and doesn’t.  Rather He allows us free-will.

My husband is a man of few words, but sometimes the words he says are like God speaking through him to me.  Knowing me well enough to know what–and how–I will truly hear.

It only takes a few simple words, spoken with kindness and love, to make a dramatic difference.

Grace to You.